Saturday, January 18, 2003

I've got to disagree with most of my fellow musicbloggers out there in the blogosphere: common's electric circus is a disappointment. a big one. [damn, I'm let down by this one and missy's under construction, and am underwhelmed by the roots' phrenology, most folks' top three hiphop longplayers of '02... well, at least it was a decent year for one-off singles.]

two tracks stand out. one is the neptunes-produced single "come close" (featuring mary j. blige), which I know is the album's dud to many. to me, it's a refreshingly understated 'tunes track, a uncommon common love song with a buttery chorus (you expected anything less from the queen mjb?) - not to mention the irresistable line "the pimpin'/may have to die with you." the other's the following track, "new wave." this is - well, it ain't your big bro's hiphop, lemme put it that way. it features laetitia sadler of stereolab - yes, stereolab! - and actually has a vaguely 'lab-ish feel to its chorus, all carnival-ride pump-organ and sadler's vox floating above the ether. the verses, on the other hand, feature a menacing piano grind backing up common's urgent rapping. but then with each chorus, all goes light and airy. the contrast works a charm.

"I got a right ta," the other neptunes production on circus, has a vintage black rock feel to it, complete with fuzz guitar and four-on-the-floor drums. unfortunately, it has none of the swing nor the frisson of p-funk or the isleys, and comes off as completely leaden. toss a faux-swing feel together with jill scott singing in an obnoxiously high, breath-y register (oh, and common) and you get "I am music." the album's worst impulses can be summed up, however, by "jimi was a rock star" (call the papers). it's meant, I assume, as a tribute to hendrix (as is the album's title). it ends up as a muddled, directionless mess, eight-plus minutes of squalling quitars, vile vocal processing, and common's squeeze erykah badu screaming as if she's janis joplin - a rather vulgar stew.

those are just three of the album's lowlights. in a way akin to nickel creek's this side, common's trying to push the boundaries of his art form (or ignore them altogether). but he doesn't entirely succeed, in his case largely due to there being far too many cooks hovering over this pot. common himself is focused - but electric circus isn't.

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